The Snow Society goes beyond cannibalism as it portrays tragedy in the Andes | To see SEE

On October 13, 1972, the Uruguayan rugby team Old Christians left Montevideo for a friendly match in Santiago, Chile. But he didn't get there: his plane crashed in the Andes. The accident became known by two contrasting epithets: some call it the Tragedy of the Andes and those who prefer to see it as the Miracle of the Andes. Both are right in their own way. Of the 45 people on board, 29 survived the crash. In the inhospitable location, in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees, without food and under the devastating effects of the 4,000meter altitude, the group suffered further casualties as they waited for help or a miracle. Rescuers were unable to find the passengers and they were pronounced dead. After 72 days the shock: 16 survivors were found. Since then, there has been no shortage of people trying to figure out how they defied the impossible. A task that director JA Bayona accomplishes in the film with surprising elegance and appeal The snow company (La Sociedad de la Nieve; Spain/Uruguay/Chile/USA, 2023), which has just arrived on Netflix.

BEFORE  Real Photo of Passengers Boarding the Plane: En route to Fight for Life BEFORE Real photo of passengers boarding the plane: On the way to the fight for life (./AFP)

The 48yearold Spanish filmmaker gained respect with intelligent, profound and impactful productions many of them with a nightmarish tone, from the philosophical horror film “The Orphanage” (2007) to the fantastical drama “Seven Minutes After Midnight” (2016). While preparing for the film “The Impossible” (2012) about a family that survived the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, starring Tom Holland and Naomi Watts he came across the Uruguayan journalist's book of the same name like the Netflix film, Pablo Vierci, friend of the injured athlete, had it. Until then, Bayona knew the episode through the lens of sensationalism: To survive in the Andes without food, the young people resorted to extremes: They fed on their dead colleagues. The news of cannibalism undermined the aura of the heroes that hovered over them, turning the narrative of overcoming into a plot à la Lord of the Flies. However, the reality was different: unlike William Golding's novel, in which boys isolated on an island brought out their wild side, the survivors in the Andes developed a very high level of camaraderie and humanity in their fight for life even if anthropophagy proved to be the only option. “I was impressed by the careers of these people,” Bayona told VEJA (see below).

The director says that the survivors now fourteen men helped develop the script and prepare the actors. Living with them impressed the filmmaker even more: “They are very different personalities, with different opinions and lives. Yet they remain united.” In times of war and great hardship, the episode is a lesson of hope for humanity. This component of altruism was crucial on the first day of the tragedy. As they tended to the injured and mourned their dead (some were accompanied by family members, including wives and a mother), one of the athletes suggested that help could only be provided during the day so they should do the rest at dusk Seek protection from the aircraft, isolate and embrace gaps. Although they hoped for rescue and feared not being seen, they all accepted the plan, in an agreement that saved them from impending death on the first night. When they tried to communicate, they only managed to turn on a radio that brought them news from the outside world. That's how they learned that the searches had ended and understood that they were on their own.

PREPARATION  The actors: Diet to lose more than 20 kilos and psychological support PREPARATION The actors: diet to lose more than 20 kilos and psychological support (./Netflix)

Any attempt to leave the plane was thwarted by the hostile environment, which led to dehydration, malnutrition, blindness and altitude sickness. After two weeks, the idea of ​​eating corpses came up. The conversation between them to make this decision involved questions that were meaningless: “Would it be a sin?” Will God forgive us? Is it illegal? Will we be arrested?” When part of the group surrendered, one of them, then a medical student, cut the bodies away from the others, freeing them from the trauma. In “The Snow Society,” Bayona follows the same logic: only fleeting glimpses of the crime are filmed. The filmmaker's masterpieces include scenes that contrast chaos with the immensity of nature. There's the exquisite plane crash sequence and a script that mesmerizes by asking the question: What would you do to survive if it were you? The acid test in the Andes is worrying, but gives us cause for optimism.

“I’m looking for light in the dark”

Spanish filmmaker JA Bayona spoke to VEJA about the film and revealed why he is drawn to survival stories.

BEHIND THE SCENES  Bayona on the icecold set: subtlety when filming scary situations BEHIND THE SCENES Bayona on the icecold set: subtlety when filming scary situations (./Netflix)

In addition to the actual drama, the film also presented technical challenges. How was it? Yes, it was a challenge. We shot some scenes at the scene of the accident, the majority of which were filmed at a ski resort in the Sierra Nevada. The actors had psychological support and a doctor they had to lose more than 20 kilos and even experienced very cold moments.

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His films depict real and fictional dilemmas, comparable to nightmares. Why this bias? What really interests me is what lies behind the nightmare like the wishes, the illusions, the fantasies. I seek light in the dark to illuminate my own fears.

And what fear particularly interested you in this film?Loneliness. The feeling of being alone, needing help or the powerlessness of not being able to help someone in need.

What lesson do you take away with you?The careers of these people impressed me as much as the bonds they created. I noticed that they are very different, have different opinions and lives. But they remain united and coherent.

Published in VEJA on 5. January 2024, Issue No. 2874

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